What is Happening in Sheikh Jarrah?

“We’ve been living in this house for 65 years. Each stone or sib of sand reminds us of our parents and ancestors. Our kids are scared. They keep asking us why the Israelis want to kick us out.”  -Aref Hammad, a Palestinian resident of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. 

Located in East Jerusalem, the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah was named after Hussam al-Din al-Jarrahi, the personal physician of Salah Aldin – the military leader whose army liberated Jerusalem from the Crusaders in the 12th century. He earned the title “Jarrah” (جراح), which means surgeon in Arabic, and was buried at the entrance of the village. 

Today, over 500 residents of the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah are being arrested and faced with forced evictions, making room for the settlement of Israelis in the heart of Arab grounds.  Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem adds another layer of tension with his claim that ‘it is not a political, but a legal dispute towards land ownership’, however, the case goes much deeper than this, as the barbaric behavior is part of a stronger push to change the whole demographic of Jerusalem, otherwise known as ethnic cleansing. 

If we trace back to historical times, we can see that in:  

  • 1948: The Nakba took place, where many Palestinians were displaced due to the creation of the new State of Israel. 
  • 1948-1967: The West Bank was under Jordanian rule  
  • 1956: Around 28 refugee families lost their homes as an aftermath of the Nakba. The Jordanian Ministry of Construction and Development along with ‘UNRWA’ – a UN refugee agency, provided housing for them in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
  • During that same year, a contract was established for the Palestinian families where ownership would be transferred to them after 3 years from the completion of construction. 
  • 1967:  Israel’s occupation of the West Bank terminated the registration of the houses under the families’ names (proof of ownership). 

Sheikh Jarrah holds an important status in terms of Palestinian national heritage because members of respected families resided there during the time of the displacement. The rental lease that the Arab residents of the compound signed with the government of Jordan stated that:

‘the agreement does not in any way affect their rights in their country of origin, and if they return to their original homes they will be required to return the property in this neighborhood to the government of Jordan.’              

During the year of the 1970 Aparethid Law, Israel established a rule on Legal and Administrative Affairs claiming that ‘Only Jews who lost their property in East Jerusalem in 1948 can reclaim that property.’ 

What is amusing is that this law has formed a segregation in Israel itself, where it excludes Arab-Israelis from its decision. In other words, the law only applies to purely Jewish-Israelis. 

Some might argue that this piece of land was purchased by Jewish agencies in the late 19th century but taken by Jordan in the 1948 war. Still, it is easy to tamper with such statements as there is no evidence linked to it whatsoever. What remains a solid fact that is reflected in today’s reality is the violation of human rights of Palestinians. The feet that roamed the land of olive trees since the beginning were Palestinian. (Olive trees symbolize Palestinians’ attachment to their land because the trees are draught-resistant and grow under poor soil conditions, they represent the Palestinian’s resistance and resilience.)

It is a dream that one day, Palestine will receive the peace and relief it has been fighting for, in addition to putting a stop to the illegal expansion of Zionist settlers in occupied areas. As for now, Palestinians will persist in doing what they do best: never choosing silence, remaining until their very last breath. 

As for you dear reader, I urge you to stay educated on the topic, repost social media content to raise awareness, and last but not least, understand that it is not ‘anti-semitic’ to be against the right-wing government of Israel. 

#SaveSheikhJarrah  #FreePalestine

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